Life’s Sweet in the Honey Business: Setting up an Apiary

Life can be sweet in the honey business, but it is also very hard work moving hives and extracting honey. The flow method of extracting the apiarist’s honey, invented by a young Australian beekeeper, has revolutionised the business of producing honey, but it is still a labour of love as much as anything else. This is as it should be, I would not advise anyone to go into the honey bee business to make money; you must love the work and honey. It’s all about the honey not the money, sounds like a great book title.

Setting up an apiary involves purchasing hive boxes or making your own, having access to an environment that the bees will happily produce in and getting a permit from your government regulator to make honey for sale for human consumption. Producing great honey is similar to being a vigneron and wine maker or, perhaps, a cheese maker. All of these artisans are working with nature to produce a natural food or drink product.

The first question you should ask yourself when considering setting up an apiary, is, can you handle being stung by bees. Because you will get stung occasionally, it is all part of the process. If you have an allergic reaction to bee stings look for another hobby. Like anything, the more you are stung, if you are not allergic to bee stings, the less severe your reactions become, as your body builds up its immune system to the toxin.

It is recommended that you start small with one or two hives to see how the life of an apiarist suits you. Business finance is available when you choose to expand your production levels. Read up on books or websites explaining the how to be a successful bee keeper.  Check with all the government agency guidelines and get a permit. You will need protective clothing, boots, gloves, smoker and a hive tool, in addition to your hive boxes. Plus an uncapping fork, honey extractor, honey strainer and vessels to store your honey in.

Where do the bees come from? You can wait for some bees to find you, or you can purchase bees from someone like another beekeeper, an association or business selling honey bee colonies. Spring is the optimum time to acquire your bees, as they then expand the colony and you can watch them grow. Bees must be looked after, and the hives regularly checked for pests and infestations. You need to ensure that you leave enough food in the hive for the bees at the end of summer in preparation for winter. Happy beekeeping.